Elevated Mating Frequency in Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Queens Exposed to the Miticide Amitraz During Development Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract Most honey bee (Apis mellifera Linnaeus, 1758) (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies in the United States have been exposed to the beekeeper-applied miticides amitraz, coumaphos, and tau-fluvalinate. Colonies are also often exposed to agrochemicals, which bees encounter on foraging trips. These and other lipophilic pesticides bind to the beeswax matrix of comb, exposing developing bees. We explored whether queen-rearing beeswax containing pesticides affects the reproductive health of mated queens. We predicted that queens reared in pesticide-free beeswax would have higher mating frequencies and sperm viability of stored sperm compared with queens reared in wax containing pesticides. Mating frequency and sperm viability are two traditional measurements associated with queen reproductive health. To test these hypotheses, we reared queens in beeswax-coated cups that were pesticide free or contained field-relevant concentrations of 1) amitraz, 2) a combination of tau-fluvalinate and coumaphos, or 3) a combination of the agrochemicals chlorothalonil and chlorpyrifos. We then collected queens once they mated to determine sperm viability, using a dual fluorescent cell counter, and mating frequency, genotyping immature worker offspring at eight polymorphic microsatellite loci. Sperm viability did not differ between control queens and those reared in pesticide-laden wax. However, queens exposed to amitraz during development exhibited higher mating frequency than queens reared in pesticide-free beeswax or beeswax containing the other pesticide combinations. Our results suggest that miticide exposure during development affects queen mating frequency but not sperm viability, at least in newly mated queens. This finding, which has practical implications for commercial queen rearing and overall colony health, calls for further study.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 7.258

author list (cited authors)

  • Walsh, E. M., Janowiecki, M. A., Zhu, K., Ing, N. H., Vargo, E. L., & Rangel, J.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Walsh, Elizabeth M||Janowiecki, Mark A||Zhu, Kyle||Ing, Nancy H||Vargo, Edward Lind||Rangel, Juliana

editor list (cited editors)

  • Sun, Q. K.

publication date

  • September 2021